Facebook has long been accused by users of allowing Holocaust denial on their social media platform but a recent study claims that the computer algorithms actually promote Holocaust denial.
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a UK-based counter-extremist organization, published a report titled “Hosting the ‘Holohoax’: A Snapshot of Holocaust Denial Across Social Media,” claiming that Facebook and Twitter “provide a home to an established and active community of Holocaust deniers.”
“Using a ‘snowball’ discovery method, we found that when a user follows public pages containing Holocaust denial content, Facebook actively promotes further Holocaust denial content to that user,” the report said.
This search for pages dealing with the Holocaust brought up suggestions for pages promoting Holocaust denial. These results recommended links to publishers that sell revisionist and denial literature.
The report noted that there are 36 Facebook groups, with a combined 366,068 followers, that are specifically dedicated to Holocaust denial or host such content.
The report also documented that the same issue was effectively handled by both YouTube and Reddit through appropriately applied content moderation policies. Holocaust denial on Reddit was reduced through “a combination of moderation efforts and pushback from other users.”
A spokesperson for Facebook said: “We take down any post that celebrates, defends, or attempts to justify the Holocaust.”
It is important to note that this policy does not include a ban on Holocaust denial. The Anti-Defamation League has long called for Facebook to change its policy concerning Holocaust denial, noting that the Jewish owner of the company considers Holocaust denial to be a “simple factual error.”
“In July 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Vox Recode interview that while he finds Holocaust denial “deeply offensive,” Facebook views the refusal to acknowledge the attempted annihilation of European Jewry as a simple factual error. “I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong,” Zuckerberg said. ‘I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong….’”
Researchers also found that Holocaust denial content is readily accessible across Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube. They identified “holohoax”, a term frequently used by Holocaust deniers, in 2,300 pieces of content on Reddit, 19,000 pieces on Twitter, and 9,500 pieces of content on YouTube, all created in the past two years.
Jacob Davey, ISD’s senior research manager, told The Guardian: “Facebook’s decision to allow Holocaust denial content to remain on its platform is framed under the guise of protecting legitimate historical debate, but this misses the reason why people engage in Holocaust denial in the first place.”
“Denial of the Holocaust is a deliberate tool used to delegitimize the suffering of the Jewish people and perpetuate long-standing antisemitic tropes, and when people explicitly do this it should be seen as an act of hatred.”
Despite a longstanding policy against hate-speech, Facebook has been plagued with issues concerning anti-Semitism. Last week, Facebook and Instagram announced they would be banning conspiracy theories about Jewish people “controlling the world.”
Last month, the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany organized the #NoDenyingIt which posted videos of Holocaust survivors on Facebook, requesting that he remove Holocaust denial sites from his site.